You know those little ads that show up on your Facebook page right alongside your preferences and your friends pictures? Turns out that whether or not you realize it, they're likely having an effect on what you purchase.
According to two new studies set to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, consumers rely heavily on the outside factors such as the opinions of others and associations brands have with consumers' personal social media content when making purchase decisions.
Research by Andrew Perkins of the University of Western Ontario and Mark Forehand of the University of Washington-Seattle found that brands that appear on a person's Facebook page are likely to create a strong association among people.
"The vast majority of marketing exposures are experienced under conditions of low attention and little cognitive involvement," said Perkins and Forehand. "The current research demonstrates that brand identification can form even in these low-involvement conditions if the brand is merely presented simultaneously with self-related information."
The research proved this by having participants view fictitious car advertisements on social networking websites Facebook and hi5. In this study, the participants approved the brands that were on their own Facebook page, preferring them to the same brands that were seen on other people's pages.
"These results show that the car brands did not benefit from Facebook directly, but rather from their proximity to the consumers’ personal content," said the authors. "Consumers are increasingly comfortable posting a wealth of personal information online, and such digital extroversion certainly creates opportunities for marketers to effectively target and embed their appeals."
Perkins and Forehand concluded that this phenomenon is a result of a concept called "implicit self-referencing" which comes as a result of people identifying with a brand even when they do not choose it themselves since it falls in line with a personal association.
Additional research, conducted by a different group of researchers, but also released this week, confirms the power outside influence has on consumer's purchase decisions. Yeosun Yoon of Kaist Graduate School of Management, Zeynep Gürhan-Canli and Gülen Sarial-Abi of Koc University, found that comments from other shoppers had a great ability in influencing one's purchase decisions.
"How individuals make decisions is influenced by their self-regulatory goals," said the authors in their study. "According to regulatory focus theory, promotion-focused individuals are likely to be sensitive to gain-related information that involves the presence or absence of positive outcomes. On the other hand, prevention-focused individuals are likely to be sensitive to loss-related information that involves the presence or absence of negative outcomes."
In this research, the researchers had participants read reviews of products and were able to gauge attitudes these people had toward the products after they read comments about them. Participants relied heavily on the opinions of others when making a decision about the products. Additionally, the research found that products with a positive reputation were viewed favorably even if they did not have positive information accompanying them in commentaries.
"When individuals are provided with few commentaries, they are likelier to process information that is inconsistent with their motivational orientation," said the authors. "We suggest that when consumers read commentaries by others they pay attention to the extent to which they selectively focus on positive or negative information."